40 Things to Do Instead of Eat When You're Bored

By , SparkPeople Blogger
After a long day at work, at school, in carpool lanes or {insert daily obligation here}, your energy reserves and brain power have been thoroughly zapped. You manage to squeeze in a quick workout, grab dinner, knock out some laundry and maybe answer a few emails—and then before you know it, you find yourself halfway through a bag of chips, a pint of ice-cream or maybe just a few too many crackers with hummus. You're not quite sure how or why you started eating in the first place…after all, dinner was just an hour or two ago, and you're certainly not hungry. It's just that for the first time all day, you finally have some down time, your phone has stopped ringing, no one is clamoring for your attention, your mind is wandering aimlessly and the food is just right there…

If this scenario sounds all too familiar, you're not alone. Studies have shown that people are much more likely to crave food—particularly sugary and fatty snacks—when they're bored. After observing participants who were intentionally subjected to periods of boredom, scientists found that the people chose to eat as a way to break the monotony, not necessarily to enjoy the taste or to satisfy any degree of hunger.

If boredom is eating up your goals, the best strategy is to occupy your mind and body with thoughts and activities that have nothing to do with food. (Note: This only applies when you're not physically hungry—if your body is giving you clear cues that it's time to fuel up, you shouldn't deprive it of the sustenance it needs.) So, next time your belly is full and your calendar is empty, try some of these fork-free ways to fill up those idle hours.

40 Ways to Bust Monotony Without a Meal

  1. Call your mom. (Or your dad, grandmother, cousin or anyone who would be thrilled—and maybe surprised—to hear from you.)
  2. Dance. Been awhile, hasn't it? Download your favorite up-tempo song or throw on an old-school album and let all your wiggles out. Don't worry, no one's watching.
  3. Clean out a junk drawer. You know you've got one, and it's probably not pretty. After 10 minutes, you'll have a nicely organized drawer without a single calorie to show for it.
  4. Go for a walk. So what if you've already worked out today? Your step count will skyrocket, and you'll benefit from the fresh air.
  5. Walk the dog. Don't have one? Borrow the neighbor's or volunteer at a local animal shelter.
  6. Listen to an audio book. This is great for long drives, when you'd otherwise be tempted to snack or sip.
  7. Do a jigsaw puzzle. Not only will it fill up the time, it helps stimulate the brain and could even prevent Alzheimer's.
  8. Plan next week's meals. Put today's cravings to good use by applying them (in a healthy way) to your future menu.
  9. Tap into your spiritual side. This could mean praying, meditating or just connecting with nature—whatever soothes your soul.
  10. Start that vision collage you've been thinking about making for ages.
  11. Play with your kids (or grandkids). Whether it's a wiffle ball game, a tea party with dolls or a Wii marathon, they'll appreciate the attention—and you'll come away feeling younger at heart.
  12. Write down (or track online) everything you've eaten so far today. The list will most likely help silence the snack that's calling your name.
  13. Listen to a favorite podcast while tackling a cleaning chore you've been dreading.
  14. Look at photos of yourself from the start of your weight loss journey (even if this is day one).
  15. Brush your teeth. Most foods and drinks don't taste good after toothpaste, so brushing could curb cravings while also promoting good oral hygiene.
  16. Identify a cause that's important to you, then spend some time researching what you can do to help.
  17. Soak in some vitamin D. Whether it's a stroll on a sunny winter day or an hour at the pool, some (protected) time in the sun can do wonders for your mood and energy.
  18. Make a list of the next three gifts you need to buy, and—time and money permitting—buy them.
  19. Vacuum out your car. You'll burn calories and enjoy the short-lived satisfaction of a clean ride.
  20. Sip on some water or tea. Many people mistake thirst for hunger.
  21. Go on a photo safari. Whether it's in your backyard or at the beach, viewing the world through a lens is a great way to slow down and appreciate your surroundings.
  22. Start learning a new language. It's never too late.
  23. Pack a donation box. Look around the house for neglected items—clothes, dishes, electronics or anything you haven’t used in the past year—and prepare a package to donate to a local shelter or thrift shop.
  24. Take off your clothes, look at yourself in the mirror and focus on the body part you like the best. (Yes, there is one.)
  25. Give yourself a facial, pedicure or manicure. (Fact: You can't open a bag of chips when you have wet nails.)
  26. Organize your spice drawer. Throw out expired bottles, make a list of what's running low and get inspired by spices you'd like to use more often.
  27. Take a hot bath. Food and bubbles don't mix, and you'll benefit from the extra relaxation.
  28. Connect with your people. Whether they're your neighbors or co-workers, your tribe of supporters are sometimes the best line of defense against cravings.
  29. Go shopping in your closet. Start in the back and try on anything you haven't worn in a while. You just might discover that some items from your "too-small stash" fit better than ever before.
  30. Commit to spending half an hour on a hobby you love, but have been neglecting lately.
  31. Map out your next vacation. It doesn't matter if it will be next month, next year or at an undetermined date. Select a destination and then research flights, lodging, recreation and other details. Some believe that half the fun of travel is in the planning!
  32. Write a letter to someone you've been angry with, focusing on forgiveness instead of fury. Shred it or send it, it's up to you.
  33. Download all those photos from your phone and create a digital album.
  34. Write down all the things you don't like about your body (or yourself in general), and then rip it up.
  35. Register for a race. Bonus points for mapping out a training plan.
  36. Start decorating for the next holiday.
  37. Empty your kitchen cabinets, clean out the insides, pitch or donate what you haven't used in the past year and then organize what's left. You'll reap the benefits for the whole next year.
  38. Start re-reading a favorite book from high school or college, and enjoy it in a whole new light.
  39. Use some essential oils to relax, recharge and stimulate a sense other than taste.
  40. Make something. This might be a crocheted blanket, a painting, a poem—anything that didn't exist before today.
Now, it's your turn! Next time you're tempted to open the fridge, sit down and make your own list. Anything goes: Include activities you already enjoy, new things you've been meaning to try or stuff you've been neglecting, so you'll always have an ample source of healthy, calorie-free distractions at the ready.

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I love this list of ideas! Report
GMAM48 11/18/2019
Great list! I needed this list like nobody’s business! Report
CECELW 11/17/2019
I will do my best to try to put these tips into action. It's hard to start a new habit Report
NEPTUNE1939 11/17/2019
ty Report
MAREE1953 11/17/2019
Good article. Even if you are feeling real hunger (which much of our over fed society has been duped into believing by the Big Food Industry is to be avoided as a way to keep one's metabolism burning), hunger comes in waves, think childbirth contractions. Keeping busy or drinking water or plain hot tea or coffee, often gets you past the hunger feeling. Best advice: don't snack between meals; consider skipping one or two meals a day. Substantial health benefits come from fasting Report
SPARKLINGME176 10/26/2019
Fun ideas! THX! Report
MARYGOLD5 10/25/2019
Good ideas. Thanks. Report
Thank you! Great article! Report
JHOLMES614 10/24/2019
Great suggestions. I already do some of these, but I learned some more that I can try. Thanks! Report
NELLJONES 10/24/2019
I keep my mind laser focused on my next meal if that's what gets me through. Report
1CRAZYDOG 10/24/2019
Great suggestions. I move out of the kitchen, get my hands busy (knitting, crocheting, reading, writing), phone a friend. Whatever it takes. Moving out of the kitchen is crucial. Report
PAMBROWN62 10/24/2019
I am a boredom eater so whenever I feel ‘bored’ I get up and move. I drink a full glass of water and get away from the kitchen. Being in motion makes me think of something else other than eating. Report
SPARKLEMEUP17 10/24/2019
Yes-one of the most helpful articles that I've read too Thanks! Report
One of the most helpful things I've read in a year. Report
Some great suggestions Report
Great list Report
CHERYLHURT 6/30/2019
Ok Report
KHALIA2 5/20/2019
Great, thanks! Report
LOULOU1709 4/5/2019
I liked all these comments, especially the ones about brushing your teeth. I have Dry Mouth & I’m always brushing my teeth & using Biotenne Products. Report
RO2BENT 4/5/2019
Some of these are silly, like if you've already brushed your teeth Report
PLATINUM755 4/1/2019
I can really use this...Thanks! Report
DIGIT00 3/31/2019
Lots of great ideas! Thank you! Report
AMBER461 3/24/2019
Thanks for sharing. Report
JAMER123 3/24/2019
Thank you for sharing a good article. Report
LIDDY09 3/24/2019
Thank You Report
SHOAPIE 3/24/2019
Great article. Thanks. Report
_CYNDY55_ 3/23/2019
Great, thanks! Report
NIKO27 3/23/2019
Great Article Report
DMEYER4 3/23/2019
DMEYER4 3/23/2019
FRAN0426 3/23/2019
Thanks for the good suggestions Report
PICKIE98 3/23/2019
This is my big personal challenge right now. Report
SOMEBODIES 3/23/2019
Great article, I have the hardest time not eating at about 9:00 p.m. when I am finally sitting down for the day to relax. Report
LIS193 3/23/2019
Great suggestions Report
Great suggestions. Now I just have to do it! Report
AZMOMXTWO 3/23/2019
thank you Report
ETHELMERZ 3/23/2019
Just plan ahead for some healthy snacks in the first place! A lot of these suggestions were so darned funny, we all had a good laugh though! Report
Great ideas! Thank you! Report
NEPTUNE1939 3/23/2019
ty Report
MAREE1953 3/23/2019
The benefits of NOT SNACKING AT ALL between meals are amazing. Read or listen to Dr Jason Fung's books and podcasts Report
REJ7777 3/23/2019
Great suggestions Report
FERRETLOVER1 3/23/2019
Thank you Report
MARITIMER3 3/23/2019
Working on crafts projects keeps my hands busy and my thoughts off food. I know it's early, but I've started to make gifts for next Christmas and for the Christmas bazaar at church. Report
Some great suggestions Report
JANIEWWJD 3/23/2019
Some of these ideas are pretty awesome!!! Thank you!!! Report
To keep myself from boredom snacking: 1) log on to Spark People - hard to snack and type at the same time, especially wiht sticky fingers; 2) knit while listening to an audio book; 3) Yes, go for a walk with my dog - getting away from the kitchen and outside; 3) Ask God for help. Report
If I have something to keep my hands busy ie sewing, knitting, crochet, drawing, writing, I can't pick up something to eat as well. There are some great ideas in this list, especially the cleaning out ones! Hmm I'll have to work up to that I think. Report
Thanks for a great list of tips. Report
I am definitely a "boredom" eater! I need to print this article! Report
Thank you! Great article! Report